Ladbrokes Boss Calls MPs "Ridiculous" Over Maximum Stake Demands

By Martin Green17 November 2019
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Ladbrokes Boss Calls MPs "Ridiculous" Over Maximum Stake Demands

GVC Holdings chief executive Kenny Alexander called a parliamentary group “ridiculous” after it demanded a £2 maximum stake at online casinos. The Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group said a £2 cap per spin would help protect vulnerable gamblers. The British government recently forced operators to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals in betting shops from £100 to £2 per spin, but this does not apply for online casinos. The parliamentary group said the disparity between retail and online stakes is indefensible. “They said that because it’s £2 in slots, it must be £2 in online casino, but that’s like comparing apples and pears,” said Alexander, whose firm owns Ladbrokes and Coral. “It’s completely and utterly ridiculous.” He said it is much easier to recognise problem gambling patterns online, so there is no need to reduce the stake. “To compare FOBTs and online casinos is completely false,” he added.

888 Holdings has defended the reappointment of long-serving chairman Brian Mattingley after 21% of shareholders voted against the decision. Mattingley has been on the board since 2005 and he has held various leadership roles since then, including chief executive. UK corporate rules state that company board directors are not expected to serve on the board for longer than nine years, as longer tenures can impact upon a director’s independence. “The board’s decision to retain Mattingley as its non-executive chairman reflects the significant value he brings to the board, including in particular his wealth of gambling industry and public company experience, deep knowledge of the business and industry contacts,” the firm said in a statement. “The board believes Mattingley’s continued tenure as non-executive chairman benefits all shareholders.”

Bet365 boss Denise Coates has drawn negative publicity for paying catering staff at one of her family’s companies an average of £12,500 per year each. Jobs at ABM Catering are advertised for £8.21 per hour and that is lower than the London living wage of £10.55. By contrast, Coates paid herself £220 million last year, plus a £45 million dividend, following another strong year for Bet365. However, ABM Catering said the average pay figure of £12,500 reflects the fact that 85 per cent of its workers do not have full-time roles, which allows them to “balance their work around their family life, studies and/or other interests”. It added that the rates it pays are standard for the industry.

Betway has joined the Swedish trade association for online gambling operators, Branschföreningen för Onlinespel, as it plans to ramp up its presence in the market. The Swedish market was restructured earlier this year, putting many companies under pressure to adjust to new gaming laws. Fines have been issued for breaches, but joining the association should help Betway steer clear of running into any regulatory problems. Bet365 and GVC Holdings are among the operators that have joined Branschföreningen för Onlinespel.

Halifax is the latest major bank to allow customers to self-exclude their debit cards from betting companies. Any customers that opt in will have a 48-hour freeze period, allowing them to protect themselves against an impulsive return to gambling. It follows in the footsteps of HSBC, which allowed customers to self-exclude after revealing that about 500,000 customers placed bets every month in 2018, spending an average of £52.50. It received more than 12,000 calls about gambling last year. Behaviour expert Dr Heather Wardle told The Guardian: “The financial sector is a key enabler of the gambling industry – without them online gambling couldn’t exist. It’s right that banks and other financial institutions take the protection of people from gambling harms seriously.”